28 January 2007 | guy-bellinger
The whole world's a mess
Pascal Thomas loves life, anarchy (in the noble sense of the term), Epicureanism, disorder, incongruity. On the other hand he hates conformity, conventions, market-oriented society, the establishment
His latest opus "Le Grand Appartement (The Very Big Apartment) is the perfect epitome of all of the philosophic likes and dislikes of the French director, regularly illustrated in all his films, from his first feature "Les Zozos" to "Les Maris, les Femmes, Les Amants" to "La Pagaille" to "La Dilettante" (all telltale titles indeed!).
In this one you get them all: - Francesca, a libertarian heroine with a sense of responsibility - a place in which people of all ages and generations, with a good number of unconventional artists among them, live together somehow or other, a bit like in the Utopian communities of the 1970's. And as heaven cannot exist without its counterpart hell their "ideal" world is is threatened by obnoxious representatives of the mainstream capitalist society, such as the bailiff, the money-grubbing landlady and lawyer. The viewer is plunged at once in the shambolic atmosphere of the big apartment and is made an immediate accomplice to these engaging although imperfect characters. The plot is a bit lazy following two main guidelines, Mathieu's affair and the landlady's case against Francesca, but Thomas often indulges in the never-ending discussions between the members of the group. Which is a minor sin as the story matters less than the characters and the events less than the overall atmosphere. And it is to be said that the viewer (at least this viewer, for not everybody liked this pic) feels good in the company of this young "Mother Courage" (Laetitia Casta, not just a brainless top model), of her insecure but self-centered husband (Mathieu Amalric, always at ease with unease), of their parasitic movie maker friend Adrien (Pierre Arditi, at once charming, funny and annoying), and their various eccentric grannies, relatives, kiddies and occasional visitors.
There are good lines, a few hilarious scenes (particularly the sequences involving "cat on a hot tin roof" Véronique ( played gleefully by lively newcomer Stéphanie Pasterkamp), a lot of relevant digs at bureaucracy and consumer society. And let's not forget this conversation between Casta and her sister Victoria about yes or no women should keep their hairs under their armpits! The subject might sound superficial but it in fact breaks a taboo. How many times has the subject been directly addressed in a movie (besides "Bridget Jones" of course)? It is very refreshing to see a renowned top model like Laetitia Casta advocating for one of the liberties women have not acquired yet!
For Pascal Thomas the whole world is a mess but a shambles is better, for out of it life is born. It is at any rate better than the museum of stiff wax figures our society wants us to fit into.